Thom Singer, at Some Assembly Required, had a post earlier in June about the importance of networking with people within your own organization:
You need to invest the time to get to know the people inside your company with the same gusto that you look to build relationships in the external business community. Those who work with you can be an amazing resources. You never know who in your life will be the person who can provide you with the next opportunity.
Tom’s right. For the past six months I have sought out people in all levels of my organization and asked them for a 45-minute meeting. Usually occurring by telephone since my division encompasses six states, I’ve gradually evolved the meeting into two parts. The first part I talk to them about my two most important projects and how they will impact the person I’m meeting with (and the organization as a whole).
In the second part, I ask for their feedback on either these two projects or on others that are of immediate interest to them.
The meetings work on two levels. First, I’m building relationships with people who now know more about my department’s goals and second, I’m getting valuable feedback which helps me reach those goals.
Here’s the process I use:
I send out an e-mail, no more than three paragraphs long, asking for a 45-minute appointment (be sure the person understands it’s by telephone if that’s the way you want to do it). I mention that I want to talk to him or her about the key projects my department is working on, then I ask them to provide feedback on either these two projects or on something else which is important to them. I give them a three-week window and allow them to schedule the meeting at their convenience.
During the interview, I keep an eye on the clock and I make sure to wrap it up within the 45-minute time period. But it’s more than just watching the time. I practice extreme listening by devoting my full attention to the person. (Meaning, if I’m on the phone I’m not checking e-mail, looking out the window or doing anything else but listening.) I take notes.
When the time is up, I wrap it up and thank the person for his or her time. Referring back to my notes, I send an immediate e-mail thanking them and mentioning one or two key points.
Next, I write them a hand-written thank you note again thanking them for their time and mentioning another key point of the conversation.
Not only have these meetings nelped strengthen my relationships and given me valuable feedback, but they’re usually fun and motivating.
I strongly encourage you to try them whether you’re in a support function or whether you’re in an operations or sales position. They are a great ROI.